All the Sloppy Ladies

Ladies, and only ladies, I am talking dirty to you. I am gonna talk about big-girl potties. Get the giggles out now because I am serious about this issue.

I know a lot of women (myself certainly not included) who brag about their cleanliness and organization. You probably know them too. They’re the ones reorganizing their pantries, sterilizing their refrigerators, and scrubbing floor tiles with a toothbrush before 7 am. They post this on Facebook too and usually ask for intervention (Oh, somebody stop me! Kitchen junk drawer next then using a q-tip to clean kitchen counters!!!).

Le sigh.

I have never understood this over-achieving behavior. Does coffee do this? Insomnia? Insanity? Motherhood? Whatever the cause, I most definitely don’t have this problem. Yeah, you should see the layers of yuck in my vegetable crisper.

After a visit to the restroom yesterday afternoon, I was bothered and confused. Stall #1 was unusable because of an obvious-colored stain on the seat. Stall #2 was unusable because of fluid on the seat. Stall #3 and #4 were unusable because the previous occupants did not flush after exiting. I utilized stall #5 when I convinced myself it was not a bio-hazard and never bothered looking at stall #6.

Using the restroom in public is one of the few times I can do so alone. No audience looking over me, asking questions, or dysfunction without my presence. Yes, the public restroom is like my Narnia; a way to escape for a moment. Unfortunately, I can’t touch anything in my Narnia for fear of unidentified germs. Also, I have been visited by the occasional stranger who thinks my feet behind the stall door are just an illusion and that the toilet is actually unoccupied. Nope. Hi, it’s me.

But what is most disturbing of all is the mess, mess, mess. I don’t know about all of you ladies, but I put used toilet paper IN the toilet… not on or beside it. Additionally, I flush after use as a courtesy to other potty patrons. Just because we all know what kind of business happens in the bathroom, doesn’t mean we need to see it.

How does this happen? I understand some public restrooms are not serviced regularly, but in my office building they are serviced 3-5 times a day (service log is posted by the door and I our restroom and someone is in there cleaning almost constantly. How is it possible that the restroom is constantly destroyed with toilet paper and other ‘mess.’ Mom’s, you know how it feels to clean up after someone else. How do you think the people feel cleaning up the public restrooms? If it is necessary for me to discuss the awful things I have seen in the restroom with others, then it must be REALLY bad.

Who is doing this? Women, that’s who! More specifically, I suspect that it is those women who complete their chores before 7 am. Perhaps their standard of cleanliness causes freakishly high levels of stress and they unleash in the public restroom tossing toilet paper here and there and other unmentionable items.

Is this filth acceptable in your home? Is this how you treat your bathrooms? I don’t know any moms that encourage their children to pee on the floor or don’t complain when they have to clean up after their husbands. So why behave so badly in public? It’s appalling.

And let’s find a happy balance, not extremes! Used toilet paper belongs in a toilet. However, toilets have a capacity limit when it may become necessary to flush. I am no scientist, but I don’t think adding more toilet paper on top of toilet paper will unclog a toilet or make it more cleanly for usage. Also, piles of clean toilet paper do not hide piles of dirty toilet paper underneath. Nice try though.

Ladies, I will defend you to the best of my ability when I hear a man assuming a bad driver is a woman, but your behavior in public restrooms is appalling. If I could hold it and wait, I would. but my bladder isn’t what it used to be before I had kids. For moms everywhere, the public restroom may be their only opportunity to go to the bathroom alone (although this is about as likely as finding a Golden Ticket in your candy bar). Keep it clean!

Please vote for Mommy Huh daily… and from your smart phones too!

Welcome to our Kitchen

I am not a good cook. In fact, I’m a really bad cook. If you think my family is starving (or worse, eating the terrible things I cook), worry not. I married my husband specifically because he is a really good cook. Also, I love him.

Our first date consisted of conversation and a supreme pizza from Pizza Hut. Classy, right? In 8th grade, I earned the one and only ‘F’ of my academic career in home economics. It’s not as bad as you think; mom and dad thought it was funny and I was able to repeat the class (which I had skipped the first time around). When my husband learned this and noticed that I lacked the ability to prepare a meal that was not noodles, he made an effort to get me excited about cooking.

Despite the meals I prepared being considered ‘an insult to food,’ I have always enjoyed watching cooking shows. Cooking shows are great for inducing naps and an excuse for being unproductive around the house. Against his better judgment, my husband started including me in the kitchen and our meal preparations. For fun, we would suit up in aprons and he would provide commentary as though he had his own cooking show. Yes, we are very strict and serious when we cook.

Cooking was no longer a chore, it was a fun activity we did together. It was quality time with a delicious outcome. My role in the kitchen includes preparing noodles (boiling water), making rice (I have the patience to get it just-right), peeling potatoes (I’m more careful with a peeler than my husband), and chopping onions (punishment for my crimes against food). I made all of my own baby food purees and I am also in charge of baking and treat making which I do very well (it’s because I taste as I go).

Better, right?

Because we are so busy, we get into the habit of cooking things that are easy or that we can prepare quickly, thus limiting our menu options. When we acquired ground bison, we decided to try something very different. Very different in the kitchen means we have no idea what we are doing. My husband searched the internet for a recipe and was baffled by the results.

“How is this possible?” he asked. It seemed as though he was speaking to the lap-top, but his question was directed at me. “There are no recipes for ground bison. Doesn’t anyone eat this stuff?”

“Are you sure?” I asked absentmindedly as I peeled potatoes.

“There is absolutely nothing. I don’t get it,” he sighed.

I took a moment to look over his shoulder as my potato peeling production halted. As a nerd, I find it nearly impossible that Google does not find search results for EVERYTHING. There it was; 4 odd results and not one recipe.

“They sell this stuff at the store. What are you supposed to do with it?” I asked as my full attention was redirected from the potatoes to the recipe-search-fail. “You idiot!” I exclaimed in an affectionate manner. “You searched for ground bison receipts!”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s recipes not receipts!”

In all the glory of Star Wars, the student became the master.

Our little-chef has also shown an interest in participating in kitchen activities. He’s really good with an empty bowl and spoon and makes delicious invisible food. It’s only a matter of time before he becomes the new master.

Please VOTE for ME daily!

Work-Life Imbalance

On a daily basis I find articles and blog posts promising good advice on balancing work and family. They only seem to help with making me feel more out of balance. How do these working moms do it?! There is a deceiving calmness to the advice they offer and I always ask myself the same question. What am I doing wrong? A harmonious work-life balance is like Bigfoot; I want to believe it exists.

On occasion, I have brought my son to work. He’s well behaved when he’s somewhere new and loves the oooh’s, awww’s, and attention he gets from co-workers. Although I don’t know much about cooking, I do know a 1 year old and an office environment full of things he can’t touch is a recipe for a tantrum.

The working hours are long and even longer when I am lonely for my son. Which is like always. Working from home sounds nice, but I can’t even fool myself into believing that it would be a good option to consider. Worth a try, but likely not a productive solution.

Fortunately, I have found ways of feeling closer to my baby during the hours of 9-5 when I’m doing my ‘other job.’

My son is always in the care of family when I am at work. Instead of a standard written report telling me about his day, I get pictures through out the day showing me the exciting things he is doing. For a moment, seeing his pictures makes me feel like I am right there with him. Fortunately my co-workers are good sports when I show them the pictures too.

There is also a special area in my work space where I keep a few of my favorite (and fabulously Washington, DC) photographs. I proudly display his hand prints we made during his first day in the office many months ago. Don’t be fooled by the neatness and organization. This is the only thing orderly about my cubicle. Might explain why a work-family balance feels so unattainable to me.

Occasionally, there are those days and opportunities for bringing my son to the office. By opportunities, I mean days when a lower level of productivity is acceptable. Mostly, those are just weekends.

With President’s Day just behind us, I’m reminded of how difficult 3 day weekends can be. You know what happens to the mouse you give a cookie to, right? Inevitably when I return to work, I miss my son a little bit more than usual.

If there is a such thing as a work-life balance, I am still looking for it. In the meantime, I have his pictures, baby-talk phone calls, and a wonderful greeting each evening when I come home. Although the quantity of time I would like to spend with my son is significantly less than I would prefer, the quality of our time together is wonderful. Perhaps it is the quality of family time that keeps work-life in balance. In that case, mission accomplished.

 

UPDATE 03.01.2012 Check out a follow-up to Work-Life Imbalance at Getting Work and Life More in Balance.

Life Labeled as a ‘Working Mom’

Hi, it’s me standing on my soap box. Yes… again.

Moms make difficult decisions every day: Should I buy the generic diapers on sale or should I splurge on name brand? Breast or bottle? Is my child crying because he really needs something or is he crying because he’s a little fussy? Despite the unsolicited advice and lectures I have endured regarding my family’s ‘controversial’ decision to co-sleep, the toughest parenting decision I have made is little more complicated and selfish; my decision to be a ‘working mom.’

Being a mom is a super-duper important job! It is both challenging and rewarding. Moms don’t earn a paycheck for their hard-work, but they raise curious babies who become intrigued children who become responsible adults. Moms are responsible for nourishing their children, keeping them safe, and totally loving them! If it sounds difficult and complicated, that’s because it is.

You have my deepest apology for using the clichéd term, ‘working mom’ as you read on (if you kindly choose to do so). Labels should be for jars of baby food, not moms!

Being a working mom has been a difficult experience for me that I underestimated and was not prepared for. Sure I’m always struggling to find time, but what mom isn’t? The issue has been an emotional one that I can no longer blame on hormones.

After 6 weeks of maternity leave, I was back to work in March of 2011. Was I ready? Not at all! Although six weeks sounded like a vacation before maternity leave began, when you actually have a newborn, six weeks is no time at all. I have since encouraged other working moms to take extended leave if possible, unpaid or not. Yes, where maternity leave is concerned I offer my unsolicited opinion to other moms.

So why be a working mom? For some, it’s not a choice. As a first time mom, this was one of the first decisions I had to make in which I had to put my own feelings second to doing what was best for my family. I’ll be honest, it was a tough lesson to learn. I was, and still am, very selfish about my child. I want to spend every possible moment with him (and what mom doesn’t).

But there were other reasons for returning to work as well and I only have myself to blame. I have worked very hard to get where I am today (shout out to the working girls!). Opportunities in my field are limited and highly competitive; leaving meant the likelihood that I would never be able to return to the position I am in today. I had to ask myself if I was ok with that, and my honest answer was no.

You may have noticed I seem to be contradicting myself. Yes I am. But I did say this was difficult. Honestly, after nearly a year of being a working mom, it hasn’t really gotten any easier and I still struggle with the same emotions. I can’t possibly describe how much it hurts when another mom says something like, “Oh, I can’t imagine being away from my children all day.’ Yeah, pretty much sucks as much as the guilt you just dumped on me.

So why do it?

It’s a combination of doing it for the good of the family and doing it for myself professionally. So far, being a working mom has been the right thing to do, despite the challenges.

When my son is not with me, he has been exclusively in the care of family members who devote 115% of their time, attention, and love to him.  Not only do I save a small fortune in child care (we’re talking more than $1000 a month per child in the DC area) but my son is with the same people who raised me. Mostly, I think I turned out ok and my son will too.

His reaction each evening when I get home from work also dispels my irrational fear that my baby will forget who I am and love me less because I am not with him 24/7. Babies understand families and love a lot better than we give them credit for. Added bonus that perhaps me being a working mom can someday be a teachable moment for him.

Emotionally, it is fortunate for me that my husband and I commute together and meet for lunch each day. Most people don’t think of traffic as quality time together, but we make the most of it. It’s also nice to talk about the stressful parts of our day before we take our stress home with us. We leave our stress stuck somewhere in traffic and give our son the better parts of our days.

I have no immediate plans for leaving work. Things are good and we like ‘good.’ Although my family intends to remain on its present course for the time being, we are open to re-evaluating things when the situation warrants other consideration. If I have learned anything about how quickly children grow and develop, it has prepared me for the very real reality that I will begin homeschooling soon enough and the label of ‘working mom’ will someday have a different meaning for me.

Function for Production: Home Calendar Station

By guest blogger, Erin Houg:

Finding that your kiddos are coming home with all sorts of papers that you didn’t notice until the morning they are needed?  Yeah, it happens every day.  Kids are sent home with newsletters, permission slips and notes from their school.  What should you do with all these stray notes?  Sort them when they arrive!

Now to a minimalist like myself, the picture above of Pottery Barn’s home sorting/mailing/calendar station makes me a bit queasy.  But for those of you that have a need for this, invest in one!  They are sold in many stores.  Click here for Bed Bath & Beyond black wood set they sell at most of their stores.

Before You Buy:

First, figure out what you need to organize.  Do you lose bills before they get paid?  Are your kids active in after school activities?  Make sure that your wall organizers cater to what your family needs.  Maybe for your mail dilemma you need something with sorting boxes, and then label those boxes as “incoming” and “outgoing”.  White board calendar are great for all those after school activities and team games.

Location, Location, Location:

Where you hang this organization center is key.  If it ends up on the garage wall and you can’t even park in your garage due to storage issues, don’t hang it up in there.  You won’t use it!  The point of this system is that you see it, update it and utilize everyday.  That being said you don’t have to hang on your main kitchen wall.  Inside of a pantry, or mudroom, is a great spot.  This allows you to “hide” it when necessary.

Magnetic or Cork?

It doesn’t matter, but find a system with one or the other.  Magnetic and cork boards are great for keeping track of party and wedding invites that you might need again closer to the date.  With these invites come gifts to buy.  Forgot where that couple was registered?  Have no fear!  You pinned the invite on your board!

Utilize this space to its full potential.  Get the whole family involved by showing your kids where to store any papers that come home from school.

Function for production!